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China Threatens British Activist with Prison

China has threatened British citizen and London-based human rights activist Benedict Rogers with imprisonment for his website, Hong Kong Watch. 

Rogers, co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, while residing in London, received a letter from the Hong Kong police on March 10th accusing Hong Kong Watch of violating Article 29 of the National Security Law, and warning Rogers that he could face a fine of HK$100,000 and up to three years in jail for his role as chief executive of the organisation. 

Rogers, a veteran journalist and human rights activist, helped found Hong Kong Watch in 2017. The UK-based charity hosts a website and works with academics, media, and governments to advocate for human rights and political freedom in Hong Kong. Following wide-scale pro-democracy protests in 2019, the National Security Law was enacted in 2020, and since then hundreds of democracy activists have been arrested and more than 50 civil organisations have been shut down. 

The organisation said in a press release that the letter it had received confirmed that its website has been blocked in Hong Kong since February 2022 and demanded that Rogers completely remove the website from the internet. 

The Hong Kong police accused Rogers of “collusion” with foreign entities by “engaging in activities seriously interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR and jeopardising national security of the People’s Republic of China.” 

“Such acts and activities, including lobbying foreign countries to impose sanctions or blockade and engage in other hostile activities against the People’s Republic of China or the HKSAR, and seriously disrupting the formulation and implementation of laws or policies by the HKSAR Government or by the Central People’s Government,” the letter, posted by Hong Kong Watch on its website, read.

Speaking to GB News on Tuesday, Rogers said that although he’s careful not to travel to countries with extradition agreements with Hong Kong, he will keep speaking up for human rights and political freedom in the country.

In a statement released Monday, March 14th, Rogers made it clear he was not intimidated. He pledged that Hong Kong Watch would “redouble” its efforts to defend political prisoners, assist threatened dissidents, and “be a voice for the people of Hong Kong.” 

“By threatening a UK-based NGO with financial penalties and jail for merely reporting on the human rights situation in Hong Kong, this letter exemplifies why Hong Kong’s National Security Law is so dangerous,” he said. “We will not be silenced by an authoritarian security apparatus which, through a mixture of senseless brutality and ineptitude, has triggered rapid mass migration out of the city and shut down civil society.” 

He also reiterated the organisation’s call for international economic sanctions on Hong Kong officials.

“The irony is that many of Hong Kong’s police officers and government officials today hold foreign passports, send their children to be educated in the West, and have their savings held in Western banks overseas to avoid Xi Jinping’s ongoing “corruption” crackdowns—and so the likelihood is that these sanctions would be quite effective,” he said.

In a statement also posted on Twitter, Liz Truss, the UK’s foreign secretary, came out strongly against the actions of the Hong Kong police.

“The unjustifiable action taken against the UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch is clearly an attempt to silence those who stand up for Human Rights in Hong Kong,” she said. “Attempting to silence voices globally that speak up for freedom and democracy is unacceptable and will never succeed.”

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.

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